Musical subtext readers will be aware of the Lancaster Music Co-op. Founded by former students in 1985 in a semi-abandoned former coachbuilder’s premises, the Co-op has run as a not-for-profit rehearsal rooms and recording studio for 33 years. A lot of people credit the Music Co-op as being the reason that Lancaster has a disproportionately large live music scene for its size (and can thus support large tourist-attracting events such as the Music Festival).
But the Music Co-op is under threat, having recently been handed an eviction notice from Lancaster City Council because their building is unsafe, mainly due to the state of the roof (although curiously – they have six months to depart so there is clearly no immediate danger to life and limb). So what, you might ask, why should we care if a bunch of musos can’t manage their building properly? The wrinkle in this story is that the Music Co-op is an island of creativity in a sea of car parks that has picturesquely been designated the ‘Canal Quarter’ (see subtext 179). And also: the building is owned by the City Council.
The City Council have kept the Music Co-op on an rolling 2-week lease with a peppercorn rent for 30+ years, a lease that effectively prevents them from accessing any funding to develop the premises or the enterprise, as what funder wants to give money to a project that could be kicked out with two weeks notice? And each developer (Centros Miller, British Land) that has been involved in the regeneration of this area of Lancaster has dangled different carrots in terms of rehoming the Co-op or fixing the building. As owners of the building, the Council have done no repairs themselves.
There is an ongoing campaign by the Music Co-op to rescind their eviction notice, which went viral last month, with national press attention and support from The Lovely Eggs (who started at the Co-op), Phill Jupitus, Marc Riley, Sleaford Mods, John Robb and Billy Bragg amongst others. Thousands of people signed a petition to save the Co-op; local MP Cat Smith has called on the Council to sort things out; and within the Council itself a cross-party group of Councillors is pushing for the rescinding of the eviction notice and for constructive talks about how the Co-op can be supported.
Want to know more? You can watch ‘Glass Roof’, the documentary made to celebrate 30 years of the Music Co-op, here: https://youtu.be/UuHCa-khx-Q (get ready to spot at least one member of LU staff, and the most ingenious indoor rainwater diversion device ever!). If you’ve got the urge to donate, you can contribute to their crowdfunder here: https://www.gofundme.com/save-lancaster-music-co-op